Great Cormorant Great Cormorant A Great Cormorant spreads its wings. (Photo: Vladimir Kogan Michael / Shutterstock)

International bird-watching competition converges on southern Israel

Teams spotted nearly 250 bird species during a 24-hour period.

One of the world's foremost bird-watching destinations hosted the Champions of the Flyway, an international competition that attracted top birders from around the world.

Fourteen international teams of bird-lovers set out in Eilat, Israel, on April 1 to see who could spot and identify the most species in a single 24-hour period. Eilat is listed as one of the top 100 birding sites in the world.

Rose-ringed ParakeetRose-ringed Parakeet (Photo: Vladimir Kogan Michael/ Shutterstock)

The contest took place just after the close of the sold-out Eilat Bird Festival, an annual event timed to coincide with the peak spring migration period in southern Israel. Up to a billion birds fly over the area every year. A total of 237 bird species were spotted during 2013's festival. The teams competing in this year's race beat that total by observing a collective 249 different kinds of birds. The winning team spotted 169 different species during the event.

The Champions of the Flyway was organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), BirdLife's national partner in Israel. Jonathan Meyrav, tourism director of SPNI's Israel Ornithological Center, told BirdLife that it wasn't "just a fun race for avid birders; it also carries a strong message for wildlife enthusiasts everywhere."

Short-toed Snake EagleShort-toed Snake Eagle (Photo: Vladimir Kogan Michael / Shutterstock)

The Eilat festival, first held in 2007, has grown dramatically each year to become one of the world's biggest birding events. In northern Israel, the Hula Valley Bird Festival started in 2011 and is held each November.

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